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OVG enters Canada with Hamilton arena project

Oak View Group (OVG) has moved into the Canadian marketplace for the first time after being engaged to work on the redevelopment of Hamilton’s downtown entertainment precinct, including the FirstOntario Centre arena.

OVG will join forces with Hamilton Urban Precinct Entertainment Group (HUPEG) – a private consortium led by Carmen’s Group and Mercanti Family & Associates – on the project. In June, Hamilton City Council approved a 49-year agreement with HUPEG for the latter to take over responsibility for the operations and maintenance of the FirstOntario Centre, the FirstOntario Concert Hall and Hamilton Convention Centre, with no monetary contribution from the City.

The Precinct Group’s proposed minimum C$50m (£29.4/€34.6m/$40.1m) renovation of the FirstOntario Centre includes a new exterior façade and video board, comprehensive transformation of the lower bowl, expanded concourse level, and a new flexible curtaining system for the upper bowl balcony.

The renovation also proposes to allow year-round access to street-level activations, which will include a sports lounge, an esports zone, and additional food and beverage offerings in collaboration with local hospitality partners.

In addition to the comprehensive arena transformation, the Precinct Group’s plan includes over C$12.5m in capital upgrades, expansion and aesthetic enhancements to the existing Hamilton Convention Centre and Concert Hall, as well as a one-time C$2m contribution to the Art Gallery of Hamilton.

The Precinct Group is to take over the operations and maintenance of all three entertainment venues on April 1, 2022 with the City retaining ownership of the lands and facilities. HUPEG has engaged arena architect BBB and lead local architect DPAI in bringing their vision to reality, with the appointment of OVG the latest part of their plans.

OVG chief executive Tim Leiweke, formerly a president of Canada’s Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, said: “I have been very fortunate in my career to be part of the Toronto community and call Canada home.

“I saw first-hand the continued growth in the Toronto Metro area, and we believe Hamilton in particular, needs a venue that reflects the growth, great fans, and community thus requiring that new facilities are developed and new opportunities are created.

“We believe Hamilton is the perfect market to plant our first OVG Canada flag and will be a venue that compliments Toronto and the Scotiabank Arena. We think there is a need, an opportunity to transform the current arena and we are extremely excited to be partners with the City of Hamilton and HUPEG on their vision.”

The addition of OVG is expected to bring further funding to the project, with construction at the arena venue set to be completed in two phases over two years. FirstOntario Centre opened in November 1985 and has a capacity of up to 19,000. Work on the project is expected to begin in the autumn of 2022.

“We are thrilled to announce this partnership with OVG, a forward-thinking pioneer in the world of sports and live entertainment,” said HUPEG president PJ Mercanti. “By joining forces with their impressive team of industry champions, we are one step closer to achieving our vision of transforming Hamilton’s beloved arena into a destination for sports fans, music lovers, and families.”

OVG will also launch a Canadian office in association with the project. The company was last month named alongside Live Nation and Robertson as the consortium that will deliver a new 15,000-capacity arena in the Welsh capital, Cardiff.

Image: Jfvoll/CC BY-SA 4.0/Edited for size